There have been a three times in my (three year) career as an operating room nurse that I have received comments relating to my capacity to be a mother.
The first time was about a year and a half ago, I was working in an orthopedic surgery room with a bunch of boys men, and I was holding my own and giving them all shit. (As you do. This is probably one of my favorite things about working in the OR, almost always a little fun). The attending surgeon wasn’t present at this time, and I was directing care for this patient, giving instruction to the resident surgeon. Totally unprovoked, the (male) nurse anesthetist asked if I had kids. When I responded with a no, he said, “You’ll make a great mom one day.”
The second time, I was wiping a patient’s running nose as she was waking up from anesthesia. The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”
The third time, just recently, I was fashioning a makeshift brief (diaper) for an incontinent patient. The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.” (Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is a weird phenomenon among nurse anesthetists….)
My response to the “you must be a mom” comments is some variation of, “nope, I’m just a nurse.” These comments come when I’m doing something slightly above and beyond my standard job description, when I’m doing something a little extra, but vital, to that particular patients’ care.
While I don’t personally take offense to such comments, it certainly provides an interesting commentary around being a 29 year old woman. When I receive these comments, it is because I’ve provided more personal care for the patient, I’ve channeled a more nurturing energy to someone in need. Such comments illustrate the assumption that a woman must be a mother in order to be a whole, competent woman.
Being a woman, being female, looks and feels differently for everyone who identifies that way. Each of us expresses this differently. In my mind, I am fierce, deep, and beautiful. A self-sufficient explorer. I try to connect more with my intuition and creativity. Each day, I want to unfurl a little more, become a little more me. And hell, each day that may be different. I am strong — I show and express my emotions, I vocalize and verbalize and sometimes do so too loudly. My voice — loud and strong — is one of my favorite features, and one that gets the most flak. My nickname (by at least one person at work) is Pitbull (not the singer) and I’ve been told I can be “perceived as aggressive.” But each day, I work; I work hard and try each day to be a better nurse, a better human. I’m trying to be comfortable in my skin, enjoy a nice dress, moderately comfortable heels, and make up. I want to connect with myself and with others. I want to love and fight and roar.
I identify as a woman. I identify as a nurse. I do not identify as a mother. Maybe one day I’ll be a mother. But no, I mustn’t be a mother to be a damn good nurse. One of the best nurses I know never intends to have children. And I know that I’m providing better care than some nurses who are mothers. Being a mother makes no determination on nursing care. (In addition, what do such comments say about nurses who are male? I know plenty of amazing ones, and they are not “mothers.” Another story.)
Women are powerful and dynamic beyond their capacity to birth children, to mother. Now, more than ever, women need to harness that power; women need to be strong and together. There should be no division or judgement placed upon a woman because of her choices in life. There need only be support, acceptance, fighting back, and healing. So much healing.
Do you identify as a woman? What are you thoughts on womanhood? Have you ever felt judged by another person based on your sex, gender, womanhood, or mothering capabilities/abilities? Let me know in the comments below.